+
Dr. Seuss estate says it will stop publishing 6 books with 'hurtful and wrong' depictions
Dr. Seuss/Facebook, Public Domain

Editor's Note: This article contains imagery that some readers may find offensive.


News about Dr. Seuss today has people discussing history, racism, children's literature, "cancel culture," and what to do with problematic and harmful work from a beloved author.

After years of growing awareness of racist imagery in some of Dr. Seuss's early work, the estate of the children's author has announced that six of his titles will no longer be published or licensed.

"These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong," Dr. Seuss Enterprises wrote, adding "Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises' catalog represents and supports all communities and families."

Naturally, people have feelings about this.


Dr. Seuss books are a beloved part of millions of Americans' childhoods. Many of us learned to read with Dr. Seuss books and have fond memories of the rhyme and rhythms inherent in his silly stories. But that doesn't mean that all of his works were benign.

Theodor Seuss Geisel, who wrote his kids' books under the pseudonym "Dr. Seuss," got his start as a political cartoonist. While his anti-Nazi cartoons are largely still palatable, his racist depictions of Japanese Americans during the war are not. Racial stereotypes such as Geisel depicted led to 120,000 Japanese Americans being cruelly placed in internment camps in the U.S. between 1942 and 1945. Geisel also drew horrible caricatures of people from Africa and the Middle East.

Geisel's views evolved, and he expressed regret over some of his depictions. His book "Horton Hears a Who" was meant to be an indirect apology to the Japanese, and "The Sneetches" can be read as a moral story showing the pitfalls of prejudice. Debate over whether or not his racist work can be reconciled with his later anti-prejudice work has raged for years. Some try to defend his early work, saying he was a product of his time—but that ignores the fact that anti-racist people have existed alongside racists for all of history. Some say that his change of heart is enough to forgive his past, but others point out that he never formally apologized for his racist works nor did he do anything to change his portrayal of people of color.

Which brings us to the Dr. Seuss Enterprises announcement that they will stop publishing six of his children's books.

Whether or not Geisel redeemed himself in his personal views later in life, his hurtful portrayals of people of color are still out there. In fact, a study on the racial implications in 50 of his children's books titled "The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss's Children's Books" found the following:

"In the fifty Dr. Seuss children's books, 2,240 human characters are identified. Of the 2,240 characters, there are forty-five characters of color representing two percent of the total number of human characters. The eight books featuring characters of color include: The Cat's Quizzer: Are YOU Smarter Than the Cat in the Hat?; Scrambled Eggs Super!; Oh, the Places You'll Go!; On Beyond Zebra; Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo; If I Ran the Zoo; And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street; and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?

"Of the forty-five characters of color, forty-three are identified as having characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism. Within the Orientalist definition, fourteen people are identified by stereotypical East Asian characteristics and twenty-nine characters are wearing turbans. Characters aligned with Orientalism are sometimes attributed an ethno-racial identity, but are generally situated within a colorblind lens, often from an unspecified nationality, race, or ethnicity. Only two of the forty-five characters are identified in the text as "African" and both align with the theme of anti-Blackness.

"White supremacy is seen through the centering of Whiteness and White characters, who comprise 98% (2,195 characters) of all characters. Notably, every character of color is male. Males of color are only presented in subservient, exotified, or dehumanized roles. This also remains true in their relation to White characters. Most startling is the complete invisibility and absence of women and girls of color across Seuss' entire children's book collection."

The following tweet contains two examples of racist imagery found in "If I Ran the Zoo":

While there has been a predictable uproar about "canceling" or "banning" Dr. Seuss, this move to remove the problematic books came from the Dr. Seuss estate itself, not some amorphous "cancel culture" mob. It's only six books out of 50 that will no longer be published so they don't keep putting out hurtful images. Some parents and educators have decided there are other authors they prefer to use to help kids learn to read due to Geisel's history—but that's not the same as banning his books. Some libraries and school districts have stopped highlighting Dr. Seuss books, but they are still available on the shelves.

President Biden not mentioning Dr. Seuss during his Read Across America Day proclamation today is also not really "canceling." The day has been around since 1998, and though it coincides with Geisel's birthday, neither Bill Clinton nor George W. Bush mentioned Dr. Seuss in their proclamations, either. Presidents Obama and Trump did—both of them singing Dr. Seuss's praises—but the day is not synonymous with Dr. Seuss.

Do we really want to call thoughtful criticism, personal discernment in book choices, and making changes when harmful things come to light "cancel culture"? Meh. What we're seeing here is learning. It's growth. It's reckoning with the complexities of reality and wrestling with demons of the past. Uprooting racism is messy, but pretending it doesn't exist, even in the works of beloved icons, will get us nowhere.

We'll likely be debating Dr. Seuss's legacy for many years to come, but it's good to see his estate taking action to stop continuing to put out imagery that perpetuates stereotypes.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

Pop Culture

John Cena sets new world record with 650 wishes granted with the Make-A-Wish Foundation

He’s become the foundation’s most requested celebrity—and he never turns anyone down.

"I'll drop everything."

The multitalented, mega famous John Cena might hold many titles, but this might be the coolest one yet—and it has nothing to do with wrestling.

The actor and WWE performer just broke the Guinness World Records for most wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As of July 19, Guinness World Records reports, Cena has granted a whopping 650 wishes. The highest amount any other celebrity granted was 200.

The 16-time world champion first became a wish-granter back in 2002. Since then, he’s become the foundation’s most requested celebrity—and he never turns anyone down.

"I just drop everything. I don't care what I'm doing," he said in a WWE produced video after granting his 500th wish. “I can't say enough how cool it is to see the kids so happy, and their families so happy, I truly want to show them that it's their day.”
Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less